A British tourist has been sentenced to three months in jail in Dubai, UAE, for touching a man’s hip as he carried his drinks through a crowded bar.
Jamie Harron, 27, from Stirling has been penalized for public indecency, however, he maintains he only put his hand on a man in a bar so he did not “bump and spill drinks." Meanwhile, Detained in Dubai, the campaign group overseeing his case, says the Jordanian man, who has accused the British tourist of the alleged offense, "was trying to show off his power in front of his friends."
Harron's trial and ensuing arrest have prompted claims of how locals in Dubai, a tourist hotspot, try to get foreigners in trouble just for "sport."
Despite 80 percent of the total UAE population comprising of expatriates, a 2012 Forbes survey rated the country poorly for expats on categories including befriending locals and integration between communities.
When it comes to tourists, especially those hailing from the West, the Gulf state is increasingly becoming a risky vacation spot since some of the most innocuous gestures, such as kissing your girlfriend at a mall, can get a person arrested.
Something similar happened in Harron's case, it appears. He merely placed his hand on the right hand side of the top of the man's hip to avoid spillage "in a move familiar to most U.K. patrons of crowded pubs."
The man, who filed the complaint, was reportedly a local who wanted to "show off" his influence over a foreigner — a trend that Radha Stirling, Harron's lawyer, claimed is becoming rather common in the UAE.
She said “it’s a sport to have someone locked up for a few days” in Dubai and locals use their country's laws “for vindication if they feel offended by someone”.
“So, there are a lot of different social reasons to make reports and they’re [Emirati locals] very report happy," Stirling added. "They know that the judicial system there is flawed and they use it for fun, or for vindication if they feel offended by someone. They know they can have someone locked up and they use that.”
Not only was Harron, an electrician by profession who had been working in Afghanistan, jailed for the trivial offense, he also lost his job and was forced to pay £32,000 (over $42,000) in expenses and legal fees.
“I hope that it can be sorted out but I already didn’t think it would have gone on for so many months in the first place," Harron stated. "I’ve lost my job. I’m in debt now. I may be going to prison and all this for a two-day stopover. It’s just unbelievable. I’m still in shock that it’s actually happened.”
Thumbnail Credits: Joshua Lott/Reuters